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Rookie Wednesday: Not really a rookie day at all! Understanding booking routes

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

I am about to make your head explode. Today’s post will be hard, so please read it over and over before you start to ask questions!

I have received a bunch of e-mail’s about how I got 25,000 point tickets when Delta.com would only show 40,000 point Skymiles tickets. How did I do it? Also, why do I not book tickets for others? Let me put this last one to an end right away. Most would NEVER put up with what I do to get low level seats or trust that Delta is so messed up that change will come before my/your trip. Plus, with my many full time jobs, I have no time to book award tickets for others.

But I again digress Let’s get back to the topic of today’s post. Look at the Delta route map at the top of this post. Does it make your head hurt? GOOD! It should. Our airline flies so many places that with time and work you should always be able to find low level seats to where you want to go. YES I said it. You can always get low level seats if you are willing to put up with overnights if these can be had! (I agree that spending points at hotels can offset the benefits of low vs. mid but I bank on schedule change).

So let’s get down and dirty. Look at this:

Nothing but 40k search one way from PHX to SBN. So, most would say that there are NO 25k seats right?!

But look when I use the multi leg search and look from PHX-MEM-MSP-SBN

Well then! Just look what happens when I plug all these in and let Delta.com price them out.

Well what do you know. There are IN FACT 25k low level seats if I am willing to add just ONE MORE leg to this trip. So it is not impossible to find these seats with work.

So just how did I do this? I told you I would blow your mind with this post and it really had no place as a rookie post, but you need to get this. You need to understand the Delta route map above. Why? As you can clearly see, the direct search route would have cost me a ton! But, look at this.

To find the seats, I start by searching all the low level routes from PHX. I need to look and find all the possible routes OUT of PHX. No matter how many legs it takes I want to see any flights, on the date I want, that I can see low level seats on out of PHX to where ever Delta flies.

So that is step one. Then, from that point, I look at all those airports, and try to get home. If I can find low level, I am done. Plug them in and book. But what if I can NOT find it all the way home to SBN? Then I keep looking. Here is how I keep looking. I looked for all the possible routes, from all the Delta airports, to SBN on low level. Then, once I have that in hand, I now have the starting point and the ending point. Now, I need to find the middle leg, connect my low-level connection cities to complete the trip. I was able to find a direct leg but I would have been fine adding a double connection if that was what it took.

Again as you can see from the photos above, by plugging in PHX-MEM-MSP-SBN at Delta.com, I am able to find the low level seats I want for my return at low level award points.

Keep in mind this is only part of the way. This is the return trip for me from my mileage run (being dyslexic I seem to work backwards).  I must now do the same for the outbound part of my trip. Then, once I have the outbound AND the return legs, and I can test them all and both of them show “one way” low level, then I can try plugging them all into the mulit-leg itinerary and hope when I get to the end they will all price as low level. For me, I was able to do just that.

Here again is why understating all the Delta rules will help. You can overnight (I had to do this), you can open jaw, layovers etc. etc! As long as the total of all the legs do price out at 25k you should be good to go.

For me, for now, I will have to overnight, at this point, on the outbound and that will cost me 3k SPG points for the extra night. But, I expect a schedule change will happen before that so I can pick better routes and not have to overnight. But, worst case, 25k Delta plus 3k SPG for the overnight is still cheaper to me than 40,000 Delta points!

I hope all of this is clear as I have really attempted to make this as simple as possible considering   ALL  the routes Delta flies! If not, ask away – René
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Chris S.

    “I want to see any flights, on the date I want, that I can see low level seats on out of PHX to where ever Delta flies”

    Is there an easier way to do this than by manually testing each route as indicated by the route map?


  2. @Chris S. – Yes and no. You use Delta’s search all the way from point A-B but it will then NOT show you all the choices. So, the best way is often to look where you can go one at a time and even some times look the OPPOSITE direction of where you want to go! 🙁 to find the seats!

  3. Another option to find routes:
    To find all DL flights I jumped on Google’s Matrix, choose 1 way from PHX | special routing DL+ | Destination put in SBN |click Near by | set the distance to 500 mi | Check Select all | and set stops to non-stop.
    I can see 4 DTW, 6 MSP, and 1 CVG.
    You’ll still have to search for avail on delta but at least you’ll have the routing

  4. Great post but I very respectfully disagree.
    Finding 25K from CRW(or similiar towns) to LAS cannot be done. I understand that CRW is a tiny inconsequential nowhere town, but 25K seats simply do not exist(and 3 or 4 stops with an overnight does not count. Even then I’m not sure they would exist).
    However, as I said, you post is excellent for most other cities.

  5. MSPDeltaDude

    If you end up having to overnight let me know. Maybe we can grab dinner!

  6. @MSPDeltaDute – great! I will have a full day at this point so Brunch could work great! – Rene

  7. Thanks a lot, great post 🙂
    I am new to this.. what is—- plus 3k SPG for the overnight — what program is SPG? what hotel chain?


  8. I see CRW to ATL but how do I get to LAS(and back)? Sorry to be so slow this am:)

  9. @Geoff – as you can see from the post, you have to work. Look at all the flights from LAS to wherever at low level. Then, connect from there to ATL. Once you see them all, plug them in one by one!

  10. Can you not SDC for an earlier flight at the same amount of miles if you are PM or DM and still take advantage of the low level?

  11. Thanks for that tool Rob! Hopefully I can find CVG-BUD with it.

  12. Chris B.

    @Rob, this route map is great!
    @DeltaPoints, Rene will this work with codeshare partners as well, or only Delta and connection partners (Skywest, Pinnicle, etc)?
    Fantastic post, BTW! I think I get it now. It is like doing a maze puzzle. Work from both sides, especially the end backwards to get the best route in the middle.

  13. Chris B.

    Even though the rules say I shouldn’t, I may just not include Amsterdam and Tokyo if I’m trying to get to Florida 😉

  14. @Chirs B – With code share and partners in theory YES. But, due to KLM reporting back to Delta computers phantom inventory you may have to call to get a rep to push those once you have all the rest. Any yes, why not to to AMS on your way to MIA. (One year I went sbn-cvg-atl-mia-cdg-got so kinda a crazy house shoe – and yes I did get stuck and had to fly that years ago!)

  15. overnighting = burning up your stopover… not worth it most of the time….

  16. Two questions:

    1. Does this same process work for international flights? I’ve tried some examples, but come up with huge mileage charges.

    2. Can you describe the change process you mention.

  17. Jonathan

    I am trying to find an award international flight and can find a flight from FCO -> ORD in Business class for LOW miles on the KLM website but cannot find the equivalent flight on the Delta site to book it. Is there a way around this?

  18. @Jonathan – they have to long sell or request the space. It is much more work. Ask the rep if they know how to find the space on Alitalia

  19. Great job explaining this! I stumbled across this tidbit when, at the end of the year, was trying to jump to “Gold” status by flying around the country just to get to the other side of the street to get the MQM segments! FYI: This also works with getting a cheaper flight with $’s.

  20. @Larry – This also works with getting a cheaper flight with $’s.
    Really! Humm….. love that. I am learning too. How smart! Txs – Rene

  21. Tyrell Track Master

    Love this game. I think some intuition makes it a lot less work. As long as you’re aware of the hubs and routes with lots of daily flights you can assume that you’ll find a higher change of 25k runs by routing between those hubs.

    As for me, I think an overnight is a moot point, I’d blow the 40k to avoid that unless I had a good reason to check out that city, like a friend there or something.

  22. “But, I expect a schedule change will happen before that so I can pick better routes and not have to overnight.” When will Delta let you change routes or days? I have a one leg of an award ticket and they moved the time about an hour earlier. How can I try to get them to now let me use that leg on another day? Thanks!

  23. Great write up. I’m looking for a flight from DTW to SEA in late July (25 or 26 to 29) and I simply cannot find a path to 25k yet.
    I’m hoping that DL lowers the direct rate at some point or I might end up having to pony up 40k miles.

    Every path I’ve tried for this trip has a roadblock on the outbound route.. either I cannot hit a connection or the connection is simply too long thus it cannot be ticketed.

    Thank you though for the tips.. hopefully I’ll be able to use this knowledge to get my flight 🙂

  24. Geeze.
    Ok, I’m a rookie! LOL
    I saw that route and when I went to confirm it I picked the wrong flight.


  25. Jondysse

    Pardon my ignorance… how is this a mileage run if you’re using an award ticket? Aren’t you not earning any MQMs?

  26. @Mary – read again and look at all the other low level booking post in the Essentials tab at the top of the blog – rene

  27. Réné–do you find this effective when trying to book internationally where the options for segments and hubs are so much more limited? I was looking at the award calendar to India and there are less than 10 dates available at the lowest level until January 2013. Thanks for any suggestions.

  28. Pingback: Rookie Wednesday: All the Q&A you were afraid to ask! - Delta Points

  29. Thanks Réné. It’s not really the initial leg that is the problem, it is getting from Europe to India that is problematic. All flights from Amsterdam to Mumbai are either medium or high, I can’t seem to access the award calendar through Paris. Sounds like I might be out of luck.

  30. @Gaurav – search the other way. Look at ALL the places you can go skyteam from Mumbai to ANYWHERE. Then from there to Europe. – Rene

  31. Okay, tried that. I tried to use the sky team around the world travel planner to identify flights out of BOM. I came up with AMS, DMM, JED, MED, NBO, CDG, RUH, and GMP. The Delta site only shows award options to AMS and CDG. Is there any way to check award availability on any of the partners? I am assuming it will be on Saudia or Korean. Thanks for all your help!

  32. Pingback: Understanding a positioning flight & spending your FlexPerks points - Delta Points

  33. MissMiles

    Trying to find a flight NYC-CHS from 5/22 – 5/26 and seeing nothing but 40k. I tried leg by leg and found JFK-CMH-ATL-CHS at 32.5k miles (not 25k but still lower than 40k), however when I put that itinerary in to multi-city, the result came to 72.5k. Seems like there’s no way to force 25k

  34. Michael Fullmer

    This whole article doesn’t make any sense. Why would take a “mileage run” on an award ticket, where you don’t earn any award miles or MQMs?

  35. rene

    @Michael – This is a 3 year old post and some may use an award ticket to position to the start city for a mileage run. Plus, PWM or pay with miles tickets now do earn MQMs so a smart use for more elite points.

  36. If you read the article again, and know Delta, there would be no reason to begin or a mileage run at SBN then get back to PHX. They specifically state that the first leg booked was a return trip to PHX from SBN. Delta has one gate at SBN. Doesn’t seem plausible to be an ending point of a mileage run. While you are correct about PWM, 3 years ago, only FC tickets purchased with PWM gave MQMs. That has changed now, of course but even so, the poster is booking AWARD miles tickets, not tickets where they PWM.

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